Gospel 9 – Questions and objections
In his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul has presented the case that:
God’s anger can be clearly seen right now because
Every person of every ethnic group and every status
Is failing to earn judicial approval from God
Even the Jews, who are God’s chosen people,
Are failing to earn God’s judicial approval –
Despite having privileges such as the Law and prophets
The good news is that
The judicial approval of God is also being made clear
And the Law and the prophets bear witness to it
God’s judicial approval is successfully carried across to us
By persuasion in our heart –
Persuasion that is given to us by God
As a free gift, without payment
This persuasion leads us to obediently entrust ourselves
To Jesus the promised Deliverer
God’s judicial approval is put into effect
By Jesus the Deliverer re-purchasing
Each and every kind of person who is confidently persuaded
God has, is and continues to put forward Jesus
As a propitiation or sin-offering,
Judicial approval carrying across to us through
Persuasion that leads to our obedient trust
In His blood.
There is no distinction or separation between Jew and Gentile
This is elementary teaching concerning the gospel.
Now as you can imagine, this declaration of the good news raised, and indeed, continues to raise, lots of questions and objections. Much of the rest of Paul’s letter to the Romans is concerned with addressing these questions and objections and we find a similar approach in his letter to the Galatians. It was the Jews who raised many of these questions and objections since the gospel cut across their mistaken assumptions and traditions. These are the sorts of issues that Paul deals with:
Do we reduce Covenant Law to nothing and render it inactive by this faith? Romans 3 v 31
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the foreskin? Romans 4 v 9
Shall we go on sinning, so that God’s free gift will increase? Romans 6 v 1
Shall we sin because we are not under Covenant Law but under God’s free gift? Romans 6 v 15
Is Covenant Law itself sinful? Romans 7 v 7
Did Covenant Law, which is good, become death to me? Romans 7 v 13
Who will rescue me from this physical body that is subject to death? Romans 7 v 24
Is God unjust? Romans 9 v 14
Why does God still blame us? Because who is able to resist His will? Romans 9 v 19
Has God rejected His people, the Jews? Romans 11 v 1
Did the Jews stumble so far as to fall beyond recovery? Romans 11 v 11
After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the physical flesh? Galatians 3 v 3
Why was Covenant Law given at all? Galatians 3 v 19
Is Covenant Law opposed to the promises of God? Galatians 3 v 21
Now that you know God, how is it that you are turning back to weak and ineffective energies and principles? Galatians 4 v 9
These questions make up a mixture of themes. Some of them are questions about teaching. They are saying something like: In the light of this good news, what is true to the facts in this or that particular area of understanding? For instance – Has God rejected the Jews? Why was Covenant Law given at all? How do I understand these themes in the light of this good news?
Other questions however concern practical day-to-day behaviour: Shall we go on sinning, so that God’s free gift will increase? Or Now that you know God, how is it that you are turning back to weak and ineffective energies and principles? How am I expected to behave in the light of this good news?
In the letters to the Romans and the Galatians, the very practical theme of how we behave in the light of this good news is dealt with by providing teaching to enable us to understand our position in relation to God and the world. Practical questions about day-to-day behavior are answered in terms of further teaching, or further explanation about aspects of the gospel. This teaching is then ‘worked out’ – in other words, it is ‘reasoned through’ such that practical implications and conclusions are drawn out from this further, more detailed or more specific teaching. Our comprehension of the different aspects of this good news is carried through to affect not only the kind of behaviour that we wish to adopt but also how we put our desired behaviour into practice. If our understanding is mistaken then this means that our behaviour may well be mistaken or that we fail to effectively put our desired behaviour into practice. So, correct teaching, understanding and comprehension of the gospel, of the Messiah and of God’s plan is very important because our understanding and persuasion form the foundation of our behaviour.
Jesus commissioned the Apostles, in part, for this very purpose: ‘Jesus came to them and said ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and continue to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Pure Spirit set apart from the world, teaching them to keep, observe and guard everything I have, am, and will continue to commanded you’ (Matthew 28 v 18 – 20). The Apostle Paul in particular laid great stress on teaching, knowledge and understanding as a means of establishing the Christian’s steadfastness, perseverance and day-to-day practical, godliness that begins to set them apart from the world as suitable ‘containers’ for the Master’s use. So, since the Apostles were commissioned directly by Jesus, Christians should look to hold on tightly to their teaching and practice to enable them to live their Christian lives. Where do we find this teaching? It is recorded for us in the New Testament documents.